A 23-year-old man who caused a stir by shooting at military installations in Northern Virginia in late 2010, pleaded guilty Thursday in Alexandria, Va. fed court to damaging more than $100,000 in property and firearms violations.
Yonathan Melaku, 23, of Alexandria, Va., was involved in five separate shootings at military installations in northern Virginia between October and November 2010 and attempting to damage veterans’ memorials at Arlington National Cemetery. No one was injured in the shootings.
Sentencing is set for April 27.
“Yonathan Melaku pled guilty to carrying out a calculated, destructive campaign to instill terror throughout our community,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in a statement. “The video he filmed during one drive-by shooting is a chilling portrayal of his intent and the escalating danger he posed. Thanks to the FBI and their law enforcement partners, we were able to apprehend Mr. Melaku, develop the evidence that linked him to the shootings and secure this conviction today.”
According to the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Melaku admitted that he carried out a series of five shootings from Oct. 17, 2010, through Nov. 2, 2010, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (twice), the Pentagon, a Marine Corps recruiting sub-station in Chantilly, Va., and a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge, Va.
Each shooting took place late at night or early in the morning and involved multiple 9mm rounds fired at each building. The cost for repairs at the facilities exceeded $100,000.
Authorities said that Melaku admitted that during the second shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, he set up a video camera within the interior of his vehicle to record the shooting incident.
Authorities said the video shows Melaku repeatedly firing a handgun out the passenger-side window, and he narrates the incident on the video and states, among other things: “That’s my target. That’s the military building. It’s going to be attacked” and at the conclusion of multiple shots exclaiming “Allahu Akbar” repeatedly.